Sunday, December 30, 2012

Furniture Refinishing - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

If you are contemplating refinishing some furniture, a dining outfit...or anything for that matter, STOP - are you ready to devote hours and hours of your time to this?  Ready to spend a great deal of money, time and effort to gain frustration and be semi-satisfied with your results?

OK, if you are...then lets proceed.   :)
Here is the furniture - a hutch, 6 chairs and a dining table.  These were my great-grandma's on my dad's side.  There is also a china cabinet, but we didn't have room to bring that down as well...and after beginning the refurnishing, I am happy it didn't come down just yet.  The brand of the furniture is Brickwede.

Before we go into the refinishing, lets take a look at some interesting things I found while cleaning it.
 I found it interesting that there were a few math problems on the furniture - more specifically, the hutch.
 These were on the inside shelf in the bottom of the hutch.
 And then, in the top drawer of the hutch, there are removable liners.  Check out the math on this one!
 I tried going through the math and I am not sure if it is correct...hahah  Any one have any ideas what this is all doing on the hutch?  Did they run out of paper?
 Here is the logo for the furniture - BRICKWEDE
Bottom of the table shows that there is a hidden compartment.  The table opens up to fit 2 leaves and also has a drop leaf on each end.

Now, on to the refinishing.  My dad recommended I use Formby's Furniture Refinisher and Tung Oil to do the refinishing.
 I also used steel wool pads, but later switched to Scotch Brite as it left less residue.  Don't forget your rubber gloves and a respirator.  This respirator is amazing...can't smell a thing!
I first started with the captain's chair since, if I messed it up, it was different than the other chairs and could hang out in another room by itself...hah
 I had a paint can to pour about a cup at a time of the refinishing liquid.  I was amazed at how much harder this was than I had originally envisioned.  I had to change the refinishing liquid often as it kept getting black and sticky.  Finally, the liquid was running clear and I was able to start in on the tung oil.  This was much easier!
The final product came out looking nice.  Wouldn't say it was amazing, but OK.  I ended up not doing the other 5 chairs as the rest of my patience was taken away on the table and you will see.  Another note on the chairs, they have fabric seats, which I cleaned well with the hand held brush of my carpet cleaner.
 I started in with the Formby's Furniture Refinisher and found that it wasn't covered in varnish (tung oil), but rather urethane.  Everything gunked up terribly giving this blotchy and hazy surface  :(
 So, out came the sander for the top of the table.  We sanded it down to the bare wood and found it is much lighter than the color of the table lets on.
 I put down a dark stain, followed by 3 coats of urethane.
 This brought the color of the table very close to what it was before.  I was very happy with the final results even though getting there was stressful.
After refinishing the rest of the table, which was luckily all varnish, I moved onto the hutch.  I was afraid the top of it would be urethane as well....but it wasn't!!  :)  I did end up getting a couple blemishes on top where the refinishing liquid rubbed down a bit more in some areas than others, but I had to move on and just go with the idea that a few blemishes makes the furniture look well aged.
I ended up not having to refinish the insertable leaves.  They were in pretty good condition.  Here is the table at its fill size.  Quite large!

For every day use, I remove the two leaves and stash them under the hutch  (perfect fit)!  Here is the final product, all dressed up for Christmas.

So, in conclusion, furniture refinishing is not fun, it is very time consuming and you will get ridiculously frustrated.  The final product is OK, although not amazing.  So, before starting in on this, make sure you have the time and patience.  I had to refinish most of the furniture because it was stored in a damp basement and had water stains which would not come off by cleaning alone.  Good luck if you decide to do your furniture.  Take it one piece at a time and leave yourself a few days to allow for breaks and drying   :)


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  2. I found a Brickwede dining table on Craigslist which I thought was a "diamond in the rough". The table has such beautiful detail, but the finish was in terrible shape. I finished several pieces of furniture before, and expected this table to be as cooperative as the other pieces. It was NOT! The stripper I used turned to a black, tarry mess that had to be scraped, and scraped- and then scraped off of the scraper! So then I sanded the entire piece for hours and hours. In the end, it didn't take the stain nicely, so I took it to a refinisher. He said that it turned to a tarry mess for him, too!
    Anyway, it took an excessive amount of time and effort, but the result is worth it! We have a gorgeous table now!! Such beautiful detail!

    1. Enjoyed reading your story! Glad the table turned out eventually!

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